Protester condemns ‘barbaric’ attack in Manchester outside China consulate

Bob Chan backs calls for UK government to expel any Chinese officials involved in peaceful protest

A pro-democracy protester who appeared to be beaten up by men from China’s consulate in Manchester has condemned the attack as “barbaric” and backed calls for the UK government to expel any Chinese officials involved.

Speaking for the first time since the incident, which was captured on video, Bob Chan said: “I’m shocked and hurt by this unprovoked attack,” adding he had been taking part in a “peaceful protest”.

He said he had bruises on his eye, neck and back and had nightmares about possible repercussions against his family.

Chan was treated in hospital on Sunday after being punched and kicked by several men who appeared to emerge from the consulate to challenge protesters over satirical posters of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. Footage posted online shows a grey-haired man in medical mask believed to be Zheng Xiyuan, a veteran Chinese Communist party official, kicking down a poster and pulling Chan’s hair while he was on consulate grounds.

Chan used a press conference hosted by the Inter-parliamentary Alliance on China to challenge China’s claim that protesters had tried to “storm” the embassy. He said: “Let me say it again, so it is clear. I was dragged into the consulate. I did not attempt to enter the consulate.”

Chan, who has a British national (overseas) visa after fleeing Hong Kong last year, confirmed he was taking part in a protest against the Chinese Communist party in Manchester. He said it was timed to coincide with Xi giving his opening remarks at the Chinese Communist party Congress.

At the press conference Chan was sitting next to the former cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith, who criticised the government’s “wholly inadequate” response to the incident. He said Chinese diplomats involved in the attack, including Zheng, should be immediately expelled. Chan said he supported calls for diplomats to be expelled.

During the press conference the crossbench peer David Alton repeated his claim in the House of Lords that three other Chinese diplomats were involved in the attack as well as Zheng.

He said: “The consular general was photographed the day before this happened, at the pagoda in Liverpool. He showed a remarkable resemblance to the man [filmed in the assault]. There were three other officials, I named in the house last night.

“So: consul general Zheng Xiyuan, consul Gao Lianjia, counsellor Chen Wei and deputy consul general Fan Yingjie. People identified them and their names are on social media.”

On Wednesday night Zheng said it was his “duty” to intervene as the protesters were “abusing my country my leader”.

“I think it’s an emergency situation – that guy threatened my colleague’s life, and we tried to control the situation. I wanted to separate him from my colleagues – that’s a very critical point,” he told Sky News.

Chan bears a hook-shaped scar under his left eye stretching on to the bridge of his nose from his assault. He urged the UK government to act swiftly. “I’m not disappointed. It’s not like [the British government] refused to do anything,” he said. “They said that they need to take time to act. I would hope that they can act faster and quickly reach a conclusion on whether or not they will carry out actions against people involved.”

He described the pulling of his hair as “barbaric” but said he could not be 100% sure it was Zheng because the man involved was wearing a mask.

Chan declined to give details about himself or his family for fear of reprisals. His interpreter said: “He is uncomfortable revealing his personal details given the safety issues that he will be facing … He has nightmares about having loved ones being hurt.”

Chan confirmed he left Hong Kong last year for his own safety. He said he was concerned about the political situation, particularly the Hong Kong government’s crackdown on dissent, freedom of expression and pro-democracy protesters there.

Describing the attack in a prepared statement, Chan said: “Masked men attempted to take down our display and started to act aggressively. I was trying to stop the masked men from taking away our displays. I then found myself being dragged into the grounds of the consulate. I held on to the gate where I was kicked and punched. I could not hold on for long and was eventually pulled into the grounds.

“It was then my hair was pulled. Other protesters were trying to get me out of this situation but to no avail. The attack only stopped when a man who turned out to be a uniformed officer from the Greater Manchester police (GMP) pulled me outside.”

He added: “I never thought something like this could happen in the UK. I still believe the UK is a place where free speech and lawful protest are basic human rights. No amount of violence or diplomatic pressure will change that. I’m hurt physically and mentally.”

Chan thanked GMP for taking the incident seriously and said he would cooperate with its investigation.

• This article was amended on 20 October 2022. An earlier version referred to Chan’s “translator” rather than interpreter, which is the correct term for someone who translates language orally. And David Alton is a crossbench peer, not a Liberal Democrat peer.


Matthew Weaver and Aina J Khan

The GuardianTramp

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